Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Can I be the Provenance?

God bless my Grandmother Sarah Pollock (Gilmour) O'Brien and her sister; my Great Aunt Ann Gilmour. They were Pack rats, they saved things, things like electric bills, furniture receipts, and even Embalmer's bills!

I intend to spend the next couple of blogs exploring my Grandmother's/Grandaunt's collection of ephemera.
But for now I'll start with something I found within an envelope among other unrelated things; and a question for "The Antiques Roadshow Crew...."

First the question, a little story and then: the something.

The Question: "Can I be the Provenance?"

The little Story: During "The Sixties" when I was "o wain" ("bak-ina-day") my younger brother was hit by a car in front of my parent's house, and for that summer I was sent off to Long Island to my Grandmother's house at 7 Drew Street in Hempstead, Valley Stream.

7 Drew St. ( Fall, 2007)
In the back yard behind the house
can be seen the Sycamore Tree Me Da planted;
that we all climbed and referred to as "The Family Tree".
While I was there, I used to walk around the corner to the "Five and Dime" so I could buy penny candies and look at but not buy Comic Books. One day on the way home, I walked along the RR tracks kicking stones. Then I saw it! A $5 dollar bill! It was more than I ever had in my pocket of my own EVER! It could buy a lotta Comic books! I was so energized I jumped right over the tracks! Narrowly missing the 3rd Rail!

Well, after I proudly showed off my newly bulging bankroll to Grandma; and she told me just what that 3rd Rail was all about:
I was grounded. I was only allowed to stay on the property and not to go to the Five and Dime unaccompanied.

So I spent the first few hour's of the first day, in the backyard, in the Sycamore we called "The Family Tree"; carving my initials as far up the tree as I could get next to my older brother's initials.

Then I went down into the basement and rummaged around for awhile. I found some old Signet Novels and I read for the length of a bored pre-teens concentration span. I worked my way through all the "Junk" (Boy do I wish I had one tenth of that stuff now!) from the back of the house to the front.

Along the front wall there was a stack of some old picture frames and a mirror. I pulled the old picture frames towards me and held them up so I could look at the mirror. THEY FELL FORWARD at me and I just barely stopped them from knocking me down underneath them.

When the mirror came away from the wall, A TRAP DOOR WAS REVEALED!

So I carefully moved the picture frames and the mirror over to the side and jiggled at the door. As it pulled away cobwebs stretched like bubblegum in the sun until they gently snapped and fell to the floor in a swirl of 30 year old sift.

I crawled into my mysterious Pirate Cave on my hands and knees to find: empty wooden Barrels, Silt covered bottles and earthenware demijohns encased in a wickerwork covering.

"A Demijohn in Wicker."

(The Barrels were of no surprise to me; as I knew my Grandmother's Father, and his Father, and Father before that: were Cooper's. But what were these things doing in there?)
Later that night I asked Gram: "What's all that stuff down in the cellar under the front porch?"

She said in her high pitched "Tee-hee" -Grandma -shaped -voice: "...that's where your Grandfather used to make Wine during the 20s...."

This is My Grandfather: James C. O'Brien,
My Father: James G. O'Brien,
and My Uncle Robert E. O'Brien.
On the front Steps in front of
the aforementioned Porch slash Wine Cellar.
(Circa: 1930 Something.)
And that my friends was filed away under amusing stories about my summer with Grandma to tell my children.

UNTIL LAST WEEK. When I came across this in an envelope with my Great Aunt's Will among other things:
The Something:

Grandpa O'Brien's Bootleg Wine Recipe.
Typed on Grandma's old typewriter?

So this is where I ask again: Can I be the Provenance?

The Fondement as they say?

Yeah, so this recipe makes 20 GALLONS OF WINE!
Do you think my Grandfather was operating a "Shebeen in Valley Stream"?
His Father (or Grandfather) owned a Saloon in NYC (I'm not sure yet; perhaps both even.)

This is O'Brien's Sample Room on Hudson Street in N.Y.C. circa 1865.
(And may or may not be the right place)
This scan was taken from "The Time Life Civil War Series"
devoted to the "War on the Homefront."
I found it while looking for other things
pertaining to the Gilmour brother's....

So, there is precedence. See the Demijohns? See the Barrel? For all I know the recipe was handed down. I guess I'll never really know.

My son and I plan to cut down the portions to a manageable amount and give it a try sometime this year.

Perhaps it "Will make quite a nice drink, but not as good as real wine."
And we' ll open up our own Shebeen and call it


Slainte! and "Guid forder!"

Monday, March 17, 2008

Luck O' The Irish 3/17/ 2008

For me, the "Luck O' the Irish" has always been linked to the Tithes that Bind.

My friend Dan gave me some scratch-off lottery tickets for my 50th B-day. I won a whopping total O' $9.oo ...which I promptly turned back in for 5 more tickets that were worth $0.oo. I had fun but I won nothin'.

I never had any trouble stopping myself from buying lottery tickets. Me Da always said: "Unlucky at cards, lucky in love."

About 12 years ago; shortly after Me Da passed on, I met Tom Roe. He took me under his wing, (as he had done for many men over the years) through Boy Scouts and the United Methodist Men. One night when I missed a Committee Meeting and I was elected to the office of Advancement Chairman. I later found out that Tom nominated me. It seems he saw something in me I had not yet recognized. Lucky thing that?

I went on from the Scouts to Youth Ministry. Tom became my Mentor and my son Devin's surrogate Grandfather. He helped me through a divorce, helped me feed my kid's by letting me do odd jobs for him when I needed extra money, listened when I needed spiritual guidance and encouraged me to get back out there and "Find a good woman." Lucky thing that?

"The Luck O' The Irish" that is what I call it. The Ties that bind.

Over the years I have taken 5 troubled youth into my home. So far 4 of the 5 have been the better for it. ( can't win every time....) People ask me why I do it. (take a troubled kid in, take on his troubles...)

I try to see in them what Tom saw in me....

Today, on 3/17 I went to visit Tom's widow Joyce in a transition Health-care Facility. Turns out she was in room 3/17. (oh yeah, when Tom had me cutting wood or something else; Joyce was making me Homemade Applesauce to take home to the kids.)

When I left room 3/17 I felt "Lucky", Lucky to know Joyce Roe, Lucky to have known Tom. Lucky to have raised my son and daughter with the love they return to me ten fold. Lucky to have friends and family who love me as I love them. Who cares about cards. I'm Lucky to love!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

It's Official!

This came in the mail today:

I'm Old. Card carrying old.


Thats me.

It's O.K. though.


I'll never give up playing the Air-guitar!

...and my Led Zeppelin-turrets still scars the crap-outa my kids!


Monday, March 3, 2008

Yes obeedúid~, God has a sense of humor... Or, "The Strange Mystery of The Conspicuously Absent Alan "The Bird" Casline..."

O.K., so I turned the "BIG FIVE OH!" last week(March 2nd). And Saturday night March 1st Dawn threw a party for me with close friends and family. I enjoyed myself immensely. Nothing like people you know and love to make these hurdles easier.

We had Pizza and Beer, (Soda for the little ones) And after I opened all the cards and presents...



In anticipation of my 50th birthday I contemplated for a week or so just what I should do to "...Not Go Gentle into that good night..."

...Well, BOZO had been of some discussion of late in my E-mails and I actually admited that when I was in Collage I was a member of an unauthorized fraternity named "The Royal Order of the BOZO's". ...and, that my Brother BOZO's referred to me as: "Phi-O'bus-BOZO." (...I was the Spiritual Leader of course; as I was paying my own way through school and I didn't want to party myself right out the door!)

...So,I asked everyone to put on "BOZO the Clown" noses so I could take a group picture to remember it all. Here are some of the pictures courtesy of Barbara Vink's Camera:

The left side of the room featuring my lovely daughter
front (and a little off center...)
Alan "The Bird" Casline conspicuously absent.

The right side of the room featuring Dawn! Front right.
Also, Alan "The Bird" Casline conspicuously absent.

Dan and Tony.
Featuring Burkie's Shirt coming out of Dan's head!
at Alan "The Bird" Casline's table no less....

The Bates Family minus Kevin.
They don't know Alan "The Bird" Casline
so I won't ask them what happened to him...

Nope, thats not Alan "The Bird" Casline either.
It's DevoBOZO just back from
the mystical land of Middle Smurf....

This would be the owner of the camera,
eminent poetess, scholar and mathematician.
But not the conspicuously absent Alan "The Bird" Casline...


Oh yeah, I took the pictures so
conspicuously absent as well!
I can fix that though:

Here he is folks, "Phi Obus Bozo!" alias "Card Carrying Old Guy!"
Not, of course, the conspicuously absent
Alan "The Bird" Casline...

(Hey do I look scary or what?!!!)

And just to prove that God does have a sense of humor my Church Buddies saved their noses and brought them to church the next day. (Good thing I still had mine in my coat pocket...)

When the Lay Reader (Steve: pictured above against the wall with his daughter Sam in the photo of the right side of the room) asked the congregation to pass "the Peace of Christ" they all stood up and put their noses on!

Best one liner of the day goes to Pastor Brian: "...and now I have to Preach to you BOZO's?"

As a special Birthday present Pastor Brian allowed me to help serve communion with him and Steve.


Pastor Brian later admitted to me that he was afraid Steve and I were going to help serve with our noses on too! Even when I was doing "Clown Ministry" I wouldn't have done that though. I love to laugh but I do have a serious side as well. :)


Later that day I went over to Mom's house and she let me take home some family artifacts to scan. Yeah, so you think God has a sense of humor? Guess what my Great Great Great Grandfathers lawyer's name was....

Yup! Thats right! Bullwinkle!

Think about it. Bozo & Bullwinkle!

Now look at the both of them side by side:

Is it me or do these guy's look related?
look at the ears!
Look at the nose! (O.K., so I Photoshoped the nose...)
But hey! LOOK AT THE EARS! er, horns?

Bullwinkle is supposed to be a cartoon character !
...not my GGGGrandfather's lawyer!


(I started this thing on 03/mar but life has been busy....)

P.S.: If anyone finds Alan "The Bird" Casline tell him I am plowing my way through the 1885 edition of "The Complete Works of Alfred Lord Tennyson." (a particular favorite: "SUPPOSED CONFESSIONS of a second rate mind." )


PS,PS: This is what Burkie and Sullivan look like from the floor apparently:

I don't know who was down there taking this picture
but I'll bet they were having fun!

Perhaps it was:
conspicuously absent Alan "The Bird" Casline...
I know he was present at the party;

...but for some reason
there are no pictures to prove it!
He must have been in stealth Mode....

Wherever he was
it's one of the great
unsolved mystery's
of the day!


"Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light!"

~Dylan Thomas~